Historic rescue of young vaquita in efforts to preserve endangered species

Photo: www.vaquitacpr.org

By José Antonio Pérez

The rescue of a young vaquita marina (Phocoena sinus), estimated to be approximately 6 months old, was enthusiastically announced on Wednesday, Oct. 18th, by Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), along with several scientists heading up the Vaquita CPR project in the Upper Gulf of California.  The young vaquita, however, was returned to sea per recommendations of veterinarians who determined the young vaquita should not be separated from its mother.

Before returning the young vaquita, scientists took several tissue samples that will be analyzed and shared with colleagues from other research institutes, including the San Diego “Frozen Zoo”, which will set to mapping the genetic sequence for possible future cloning.

“The successful rescue of the young vaquita is truly historic, and demonstrates the goals of the Vaquita CPR project can be achieved,” remarked SEMARNAT Secretary Pacchiano Alamán, adding, “the vaquita marina had never been captured or cared for, not even for a short period of time.”

Experts are continuing exhaustive preparations for situations similar to that of Wednesday’s finding of the young vaquita. SEMARNAT scientist Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, with more than 20 years’ experience in the field and director of the Vaquita CPR project, expressed, “Though we decided not to keep this vaquita under our care, we still deem this operation to be a success as we have demonstrated we not only can locate and rescue a vaquita, but can also transport it safely.”

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